For $8 million, Netflix picked up Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile after its world premiere at Sundance Film Festival, where critics favored the film. However, the tone set by the previously released trailers and teasers is a stark contrast to the official Netflix trailer released today. The fast-paced editing, along with guitar riffs, in the initial trailer give the impression that the film might paint Ted Bundy as a badass action-hero type to be revered, rather than representing him for what he was: a violent serial killer who used his handsome allure to charm jurors during his trial, and almost convinced his girlfriend he was innocent of his crimes.
Netflix first waded into the world of Bundy’s trial ealier this year when it released Evil and Vile director-producer Joe Berlinger’s Conversations with A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, a docuseries about the notorious serial killer, on the 30th anniversary of his death by electric chair at Florida State Prison. The series was critically acclaimed for its depiction of Bundy and the inclusion of taped interviews with the killer when he was behind bars, but an unsavory trend swiftly emerged online: The streaming platform’s social team had to go so far as to tweet a plea for people to stop calling Bundy “hot” after a trailer for the docuseries was released. “I’ve seen a lot of talk about Ted Bundy’s alleged hotness and would like to gently remind everyone that there are literally THOUSANDS of hot men on the service—almost all of whom are not convicted serial murderers,” the tweet read, once again calling attention to the dangers of romanticizing a serial killer for the sake of a meme.
Althogh the fictionalized version of Bundy’s life in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is helmed by the same director, Netflix’s official trailer for the film does not allow viewers to see Bundy (played by Zac Efron) as a sympathetic character. Lily Collins costars in the film as his girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer, whose memoir of her relationship with Bundy and her initial inability to see past his charm provides most of the basis for the film.
Bundy’s wit and handsomeness are still part and parcel of the trailer. For example, Bundy makes a joke about cosplaying as an attorney while on trial in front of Judge Edward Cowart (played by John Malkovich). But this trailer brings Kloepfer’s point of view closer to center stage. While using the same raw materials and clips present in the initial teaser, this new trailer is edited to feel less glamorous and decidedly more chilling, which also feels more in step with the title of the film.
Berlinger spoke to Indiewire about his approach to portraying Bundy as a “master manipulator” rather than just focusing on the excruciating details of his crimes, or romanticizing him as an antihero. “While there have been many serial-killer films that detail every aspect of the depravity of violence, I wanted to focus on how this disturbed serial killer used his charming skills as a master manipulator to pull the wool over the eyes of those closest to him and to prey on dozens of victims,” he said. “This is a portrait of seduction and betrayal by a psychopath, a portrait of pretending you’re one thing and having people believe you just because of how you look and act. It is a story of how the criminal justice system, the media, and people very close to Ted, including the woman he was most intimate with, were manipulated by him.”